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A Disambiguation of Elaines

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Elaine Corbenic knows, walking into the lab, that it isn't going to be a good day. (When is it ever a good day?) She can tell by the grim set of Elaine Astolat's mouth and the way Elaine Benoic has her arms crossed. They are glaring at each other with identical glares. "I'm just saying," Elaine Astolat says, obviously restraining her temper with difficulty, "I don't see why we can't at least try an optimizing algorithm —"

"It's just a routine animal genemod!" says Elaine Benoic disapprovingly. It's surprising, Elaine Corbenic often thinks, how different Elaine Astolat and Elaine Benoic are despite having exactly the same genetic heritage. E. Astolat and E. Benoic, Elaine Corbenic names them in her head. E. Corbenic. Sometimes she likes to pretend none of them are Elaine clones, even though she has to be careful to say the Elaine part of the name when she speaks aloud. (Elaine Garlot — whose name she can never bring herself to shorten -- ridiculed her relentlessly the last time she left it off. She can never shorten the names, even in her head, when Elaine Garlot is around.)

"Not an excuse for you to experiment," says E. Benoic, crossing her arms. "What would the customer say if —"

"It's not the customer," E. Astolat snaps, exasperated. E. Benoic, even though she's a couple years younger than E. Astolat, can always get E. Astolat to lose her temper first. "The customer would like her puppy to have optimized genetic parameters. You're worried about Elaine Garlot!"

The usual complaint, then. E. Astolat has been trying to get permission to apply her computational algorithms to the genemod process for quite a while now. E. Corbenic is pretty sure that there's no real reason why not except that Elaine Garlot won't let E. Astolat have her own way. You'd think a progenitor would get along better with her clones, wouldn't you?

She makes too much noise sitting down at her desk, and both E. Benoic and E. Astolat turn on her. "And you," E. Benoic says severely, "you're late again, Elaine Corbenic —"

"Elaine Corbenic," E. Astolat interrupts, "I've been asking and asking you to run those genescans, and I noticed this morning they weren't done yet —"

Because E. Corbenic is the youngest, if only by a few years, the other clones think they can gang up on her. She doesn't say anything. It never makes it better.

After a minute E. Astolat turns back to E. Benoic. "Anyway, you're still not listening to me. Now, maybe I should do it anyway, no matter what Elaine Garlot says —"

All three of them simultaneously look at the door of the lab. It is, after all, time for Elaine Garlot's morning visit to the lab, and if she heard E. Astolat — Of course, E. Corbenic finds herself thinking, maybe Elaine Garlot is running late this morning. Perhaps —

But no. The door is in fact opening, and Elaine Garlot sweeps into the lab. Her brown hair is fading into gray, and the lines on her face are more deeply etched than those on her descendants' faces, but it is clear that the Elaines are hers. Elaine Astolat does not flinch. Elaine Corbenic does. "Elaine Astolat," Elaine Garlot purrs softly, her lip curled. "Maybe you should do what anyway, no matter what I say?"

Elaine Benoic goes to stand by Elaine Garlot's side. "She's bringing up the optimizing algorithms again. After I told her and told her that you wouldn't hear of it."

Elaine Garlot absently strokes Elaine Benoic's hair. "Really, Elaine Astolat, my dear. Having another little moment of rebellion?" Elaine Astolat opens her mouth and shuts it again. Elaine Garlot walks to the computer, ejects the code-chip with Elaine Astolat's algorithms stored on it, and grinds it underfoot.

Elaine Corbenic knows that of course Elaine Astolat has backed up everything five times, off-site backups, she hasn't lost anything irretrievably by losing the code-chip. But Elaine Corbenic still sees her wince. It's a symbol, and a reminder. Right after Elaine Corbenic moved from the creche to the lab, Elaine Astolat started screaming at Elaine Garlot over something no one can now remember. Elaine Garlot took all her computer hardware and smashed it with a hammer, and found the off-site backups and smashed them too, and wiped the network. Elaine Astolat has since rewired the system so that it's impossible to wipe the network without triple fail-safes being triggered, and by now she probably has other precautions in place that Elaine Corbenic doesn't know about.

(Elaine Garlot, Elaine Corbenic often thinks but never says, is probably the reason that their lab doesn't have the reputation of the Guinevere Leodegrance lab, or the Morgan Garlot-Lefay lab, despite their genework being at least as good. Who wants to send their genemod work to a lab that might wipe all the information at a crucial moment?)

Elaine Corbenic goes into the bathroom later, examines her face. Blank, devoid of all expression or personality. Nothing for Elaine Garlot, for any of them, to hold on to.

*

Elaine Garlot says, "Well, children, I have something to tell you."

Elaine Corbenic tries hard not to flinch, and mostly succeeds. Elaine Corbenic is the youngest, and she is herself no longer a child. When Elaine Garlot calls them children, it's not a good sign. She glances out of the corners of her eyes at Elaine Benoic and Elaine Astolat. Elaine Benoic frowns; Elaine Astolat looks resentful.

Elaine Garlot continues, inspecting her carmine nails, "We're going to have a sibling made for you. Another sample to help in the lab." One who might be better than you failures, is not said, but it might as well have been.

"Another clone?" Elaine Astolat demands.

"No," Elaine Garlot smiles widely. "A sibling with new genetic material. A haplotype recombination. Like Morgan has, or Guinevere."

This is worse than Elaine Corbenic feared. A sibling-child, and not even a clone. Elaine Garlot must be disappointed in their work indeed, to introduce external genetic material into the line in hopes that it will improve things.

Though why, after all, should she be surprised? Elaine Garlot has always followed the lead of the other, more famous labs. She's told them frequently, when ranting about why she made clones at all, that their zygotes were created around the time that Morgan Garlot-Lefay, Elaine's sister, made her clone Morgause, and when Guinevere Leodegrance made her triad of Gwenhwyfar-clones. And now that Morgan has five haplotype-recombination descendants, and even Guinevere has the one desendant Gwenhwyfach, what should she have expected?

And yet, part of her is curious. "Who's the other haploid genetic donor going to be?"

"The Lancelot template," Elaine Garlot says smugly. There is a choked sound from Elaine Benoic. Elaine Garlot nods. "Yes, Elaine Benoic, the template you worked on. I had a vid-convo with Guinevere, who is being gracious enough to lend him back, and is sending one of her Gwenhwyfar clones with him to help us." The unspoken addendum here: Gwenhwyfar will show the Elaines how a real clone ought to act. Elaine Corbenic hates her already.

Yet Elaine Corbenic is also reluctantly interested. Even if Gwenhwyfar is insufferable, it will be interesting to meet a clone from another lab. Genetic labs tend to be self-contained environments, and certainly Elaine Garlot has never allowed them to go off-site. Elaine Corbenic has never traveled away from the lab, has never met another clone.

And the work sounds interesting as well. most of their work is with animal genemods, for research purposes or for rich aristocrats with money to burn; human genemodding might be exciting. She sees that Elaine Astolat, too, has a look of interest on her face instead of her habitual sullen anger. "Are you designing the zygote from scratch? Actually, this would be a real test for optimizing --"

"Really," Elaine Garlot says archly, cutting off Elaine Astolat, "I don't think so, dear," and walks out of the lab.

*

"This is Gwenhwyfar," Elaine Garlot announces to them. "She will help you with everything you need regarding the Lancelot template."

Elaine Corbenic had been prepared to dislike Gwenhwyfar intensely. However, confronted with the clone herself, she can't help but admire Gwenhwyfar's compact self-possessed frame, her dark hair neatly pulled back into a bun. Next to her, Elaine Corbenic feels like she's all gangly arms and legs, everything slightly askew. It doesn't help to know that the other Elaines must, by definition, look pretty much the same way.

"Of course," Elaine Garlot is saying, "you will all work together on this project, but I think it makes sense to appoint one of you to be the technical lead, to work more closely with the Lancelot template and report progress to me…"

Great, Elaine Corbenic thinks. Another reason for her and her clones to envy and distrust the others. Especially her, as she won't be chosen to be the tech lead. She knows that. Elaine Benoic is the best at genemod work, Elaine Astolat is more brilliant —

"I should be the lead on this," Elaine Astolat interrupts her thoughts. "Look, taking a more computational approach to the entire question could really lead to some interesting developments; we could even start down the road of self-optimizing biological processes --"

"That's nice, dear," Elaine Garlot murmurs, her lip curling scornfully, and points to Elaine Corbenic, who looks at her questioningly. "The lead will be Elaine Corbenic." Wait! What just happened? Gwenhwyfar is stepping to her. "It's lovely to meet you, Elaine Corbenic," she says in a friendly tone. Elaine Corbenic smiles back at her, dazzled.

"Now wait, didn't you even listen to me —" Elaine Astolat starts to protest.

Elaine Benoic runs out of the room. Gwenhwyfar blinks.

*

"It's not because Elaine Garlot thinks you're such a great scientist, you know," Elaine Benoic says to her the next day, arms crossed.

Elaine Corbenic breathes in. Breathes out. It's not like it would be nice to have a little validation in this lab once in a while. Breathe in, breathe out. She will not hit E. Benoic (as she might have done when she was younger). She will not yell at E. Benoic (as E. Astolat probably would). Then E. Benoic would know she had won. She will not engage.

But she can't leave the lab right now, not when she's monitoring the cell washes, and E. Benoic knows this. The older clone smiles tightly. "It's only because Elaine Garlot thinks you're the least likely to rebel against her."

E. Corbenic gapes at her, despite her resolve not to show any reaction. "But I — but wouldn't you be the choice, in that case?"

E. Benoic's mouth crimps. "Before you joined the lab, Elaine Garlot chose me to work on the Lancelot template. It was my project!" Her chin juts out. "And it was good work, too, you'll see. The Lancelot template is widely regarded as the best work in the field." E. Corbenic can see the remnants of a pride she thought E. Benoic had never had. It scares her, that the glimpse of the younger Benoic she sees is so atypical, that this other person is buried so deeply. Will this be E. Corbenic, a few years from now? "Elaine Garlot… thought I was getting too cocky about it. She took Lancelot away from me. Gave it to Guinevere, in fact."

The implanted zygote doesn't even exist yet and she can't imagine someone taking it away from her while she's still working on it, while it's still only half-finished. "How could she take it away? How could you let her interrupt all the processes?"

E. Benoic makes an impatient gesture. "I sent along full instructions to the Guinevere lab, so the processes were hardly interrupted. But I had to let her —" She mimicks a heel grinding something underfoot. E. Corbenic cringes. Of course Elaine Garlot would think nothing of destroying the Lancelot template's zygote if E. Benoic crossed her. Of course E. Benoic had given the template zygote up rather than let all her work be annihilated.

It would be an impossible situation to be in. E. Corbenic can see that. If it had been E. Corbenic's zygote — She shudders. "Still. How could she?"

E. Benoic looks away. There is old hurt in her voice, and a hint of malice, as she says, "I noticed you looking at Gwenhwyfar."

"I haven't —" Elaine Corbenic says. Has she?

"You can't fool me," E. Benoic says scornfully; "I'm your clone. Elaines are drawn to Guineveres, you know. Elaine Garlot has been in love with Guinevere Leodegrance since they were in school together, and she thought — well, like I said, the Lancelot template was good work. She thought Guinevere might be impressed by it."

E. Corbenic is fascinated in spite of herself. She's never thought of E. Garlot as wanting to impress anyone; certainly not as a woman in love. "Did it work?"

E. Benoic laughs bitterly. "What do you think? No, of course not. Guinevere said, oh, hey, thanks, I appreciate getting such great genetic material! — though she's never used it for making a zygote. I think something in the Guinevere genetics doesn't work right with templates; she's never succeeded with her home-grown Arthur template either." E. Benoic's lip curls. "And then Guinevere started an affair with Morgan. Which must have rankled even more, I imagine."

E. Corbenic knows, at least, about the rivalry between the Morgan and Elaine sisters, both professionally and personally. But she didn't know about this part of it, until now. "So —"

"So it was all for nothing," E. Benoic says, with emphasis, "my dear."

Except that the Lancelot template exists, E. Corbenic thinks but does not say, and that she — Elaine Corbenic — is going to make something amazing from it. Every geneticist, she knows, thinks that way about her zygotes — maybe this one will be special — and yet. The Elaine genetic material, as much as Elaine Garlot hates her clones, is quite good, and if the Lancelot template is as good as all that — why not?

*

E. Astolat is smiling, looking into Gwenhwyfar's eyes, when E. Corbenic walks into lab. E. Corbenic knows that look: it's the one she sees in the mirror when she thinks about Gwenhwyfar. She hates E. Benoic for recognizing it before she did.

"Oh, I don't mind that much not being tech lead," E. Astolat says easily. Too easily, E. Corbenic thinks. "I did really want to get this project going in a more algorithmic direction, but… well. And Elaine Corbenic has to report directly to Elaine Garlot, which I don't think I could handle." She sighs. "Sometimes I feel like I'm living in a perpetual storm."

Gwenhwyfar snorts. "Only sometimes? I've only been here a couple of days and it seems like that all the time, to me. It's very different in the Guinevere lab, let me tell you." E. Corbenic can believe it. Gwenhwyfar's poise, her calmness, are so different from what E. Corbenic is used to in E. Astolat or E. Benoic. Or herself.

"I have this picture in my head," says E. Astolat dreamily, "of a boat, an empty boat, floating on the water… floating down a broad stream, among willowy hills and fields… something so different from what I have, here --"

E. Corbenic has never known E. Astolat to wax so poetic, and is not sure whether to be embarrassed or annoyed by it. She clears her throat, loudly. E. Astolat turns to her, still smiling. "Elaine Corbenic. Hey. We were just talking about —"

"I heard you," E. Corbenic mutters ungraciously. She doesn't know what else to say. There is a pause, and then E. Astolat starts, in a businesslike tone, talking about computational modeling.

It isn't until much later that she realizes that E. Astolat knew she was there the whole time.

*

E. Corbenic has to spend a lot of time with the Lancelot template, not only to take samples of various bodily fluids but also to get a sense of how he moves, how he thinks, so that she can give it to E. Astolat's programs to factor in the various genetic components. He is attractive, and he moves like a dancer, like a warrior, but her verdict so far on how he thinks is: boring. Although he scores at the top percentiles on all the physical and intellectual tests she gives him — E. Corbenic has to admit that E. Benoic did good work with him — he doesn't seem to have anything he's interested in, nothing that she can talk to him about while setting up the treadmill or the hand-eye game testing. In desperation she asks him what he does when he's not undergoing testing.

"Oh, but that's never the case," he says, blinking at her. "I'm always training my mind or my body for my lady Guinevere, always, in case she has need of me. I have a calisthenics regime —" Elaine Corbenic realizes, incredulously, that he's telling her about his exercise program, as if she could care any less than she actually does.

"Er," she says, interrupting his stream of chatter about the virtues of interval training versus endurance training. "Yes. Well, that's all I need you for today, you can run off now." It's hard not to treat him as if he's a small boy, sometimes.

"Okay, I'll go find my lady Gwenhwyfar. Perhaps she'll have something for me to do," he says hopefully. He wanders off, a shy winsome look on his face.

Elaine Corbenic brings it up the next time she sees Gwenhwyfar. "The Lancelot template, er…" She doesn't quite know how to put it. "He seems a little obsessed with you, and, er, your clone-family."

Gwenhwyfar sighs. "Yes, I know. He was conditioned to be absolutely loyal to my progenitor, a new technique one of my clone-sisters came up with. It can become a little… wearisome, after a while. Don't worry about it. It's just something you have to put up with."

"Don't you —" She doesn't know how to phrase it. "Doesn't it bother you? The way that he doesn't have any, any choices, besides being there for you?" She wishes she could talk to Gwenhwyfar without stammering.

Gwenhwyfar raises an eyebrow. "This matters to you?" Yes. No. E. Corbenic cares, but she doesn't understand why she cares so much. Why would it make any difference to her whether or not the Lancelot template can choose its own destiny?

"I just think," E. Corbenic says stubbornly, "that it would be better." She thinks of the zygote she is creating. Is that what is in store for her? To never have any control, never have any choices?

*

"It's hard for you," Gwenhwyfar says calmly to E. Astolat and E. Benoic. E. Corbenic is working on tabulating the results of the Lancelot template's tests, pretending not to listen. "I don't know why you Elaines put up with this kind of treatment: Elaine Garlot keeping you in fear, working you like slaves, never listening to anything you say. You're adults, you know!"

"Elaine Garlot is doing the best she can," E. Benoic snaps.

"We have to put up with it," Elaine Astolat says blankly. "We're clones."

"You know the law. By law you only owe your creator only the labor that went into your making." Gwenhwyfar shrugs. "My progenitor is trying to get that changed; she says clones should be treated as any other descendant." She looks kindly at E. Corbenic. "And yes, Elaine Corbenic, I understand what you were saying before — templates too should have legal rights, that would indeed be the holy grail, would it not? But she's concentrating on clones for now."

Gwenhwyfar then says, slowly and distinctly, "My progenitor thinks of us as partners and adults. The clones and I have equal shares in the lab. In fact, she's told all of us that once we have a suitable research program, we can start our own labs."

E. Corbenic stops even the pretense of not paying attention. All three Elaine clones stare at Gwenhwyfar. Equal shares? Start their own labs?

Gwenhwyfar continues, "But Elaine Astolat -- all of you -- have paid for yourselves many times over, I've seen the work you've done. You could leave anytime you wanted."

"We can't leave," E. Astolat says. "Fine, it might be legal to leave, but do you really think people are falling over themselves to give work to a clone who's left her clone-group? I don't think so. They say, Oh, you have to consider the progenitor in these cases and I'm afraid we don't look favorably on clones apart from their clone-group. There is a sharp bitterness in her voice which surprises E. Corbenic; she had not known that E. Astolat had gone so far as that. E. Benoic frowns at her.

"Still," Gwenhwyfar says, her brow furrowed, "your algorithm work, Elaine Astolat, it's as good as anything I've ever seen. Any lab would be glad to have your talent, I would think —"

The door of the lab slams shut. E. Corbenic jumps, and sees Elaine Garlot standing in front of the door, arms folded. She's known for years that she needs to keep glancing at the door in case Elaine Garlot decides to visit the lab, and yet she didn't, and neither did Elaine Astolat. She wonders how much of that Elaine Garlot heard.

Enough, it seems; Elaine Garlot informs them all the next day that Gwenhwyfar is leaving. Has already left, in fact. The Lancelot template will be staying briefly, but once his tests are over he will go back to the Guineveres. He looks gloomy.

Elaine Benoic smirks.

*

"You're going to freehand the chromosomal micromanipulation?" Elaine Astolat says, her voice rising on the last word. "No automatic optimization at all? That's just asking for trouble —"

"I didn't remember asking your opinion," Elaine Garlot says, deceptively mildly. Elaine Benoic is not disguising her interest in the conversation. Elaine Corbenic concentrates on her genemod samples and tries to pretend she doesn't exist. If she just thinks about the zygote, her precious zygote --

"That's it," Elaine Astolat says. "Gwenhwyfar was right. You treat us terribly, you don't listen to me, you're forcing Elaine Corbenic to do this in a stupid way —" Elaine Corbenic can't help but agree with that — "I don't want to do this any more."

Elaine Benoic gasps. Elaine Garlot frowns.

"What do you mean, you don't want to do this?" Elaine Garlot snaps, her lip curling. "Heavens, child, what else is there?"

"Do you care?" Elaine Astolat says, her eyes hard and cold. "I quit."

"You can't quit!" says Elaine Benoic, looking horrified. "We're all a clone-family lab!"

"Not anymore," says Elaine Astolat.

*

Elaine Astolat is dumping a bunch of code-chips into a bag. E. Corbenic is just amazed that Elaine Garlot didn't throw her out of an airlock after that last scene. She says, "Elaine Astolat —"

"Don't call me Elaine any more," E. Astolat says. "I quit. I'm not part of this lab group, I'm not an Elaine now. Call me Astolat if you have to call me anything."

"Okay," Elaine Corbenic says. There is a silence. "What are you going to do now, El — er — Astolat?"

Elaine Astolat — Astolat — smiles. Elaine Corbenic realizes with a jolt that she can't remember the last time the older clone smiled. "I've been talking to Gwenhwyfar," she says. "We're going to start our own lab together. I've got some ideas — well. You probably know them already. I really think this could work out."

"I'm glad for you," says Elaine Corbenic. She doesn't know what else to say. She feels a strange mixture of envy and guilt. Part of her thinks, stupidly, that Elaine Astolat should feel worse about it all than she does.

"Hey," says Astolat. She comes and takes Elaine Corbenic's hands. Elaine Corbenic remembers that she used to be very affectionate, back when Elaine Corbenic was a little clone in the creche-nursery and Astolat used to teach her coding and network protocols. "It's not the end of the world, you know."

E. Corbenic doesn't know. "I'm sorry about, well, everything," she says.

"Don't be," says Astolat. "Listen. You could come with me, you know." She looks at E. Corbenic. "It's too late for Elaine Benoic, I think. But you — if you wanted —"

She could come with Astolat. She lets herself think about it for a moment. To be free of Elaine Garlot, of her lab, and all of her works --

Including her zygote. She hasn't even finished designing her yet, and she thinks of the zygote as a her, not an it. She's even given her a name: Galahad. She can't leave Galahad. Not when she knows that, if she leaves, she's consigning Galahad, her very existence, to Elaine Garlot and Elaine Benoic --

"I can't leave," she says miserably. "I'm not — not finished."

Astolat nods, looking unsurprised. She pulls Elaine Corbenic by the hand; after an uncomfortable half-second of grappling, Elaine Corbenic realizes she means to give her a hug, which she hasn't done since Elaine Corbenic was very young. As Astolat's arms go about her, only somewhat awkwardly, Astolat whispers in her ear, "Biology is possession."

After she leaves, Elaine Corbenic rolls around and around in her palm the code chip that Astolat put in it.

*

Astolat is barely mentioned again, ever, in the lab.

E. Benoic never talks about her.

"I suppose she's still publishing here and there, in third-rate journals," Elaine Corbenic hears Elaine Garlot drawl at a vid-colloquium to Morgan and Guinevere. She publishes without the Elaine name, even." Elaine Garlot shakes her head. "I told her and told her, without it, who will listen to her? But clones, you know how they can be…" She trails off.

Guinevere looks amused, a look Elaine Corbenic remembers distinctly from Gwenhwyfar, a look that makes Elaine Corbenic's heart twist up a little in spite of herself.

"How terrible for you, really, my dear," Morgan murmurs silkily to her sister, her lip curled up in a way that Elaine Corbenic has seen before. Elaine Corbenic wonders, suddenly, what Morgan's clone is like, and what it was like for Morgan and Elaine Garlot growing up.

"I mean," Elaine Garlot says, looking at Guinevere, "it seems to me that Astolat practically committed scientific-reputation suicide."

*

E. Corbenic got one message from Astolat afterwards. Not even a message, but a picture: a boat floating down a river. E. Corbenic looks at it now and then; she feels an odd sense of loss when she does, as if her clone-sister were drifting farther and farther away.

*

Elaine Corbenic has all the genetic coding information she needs from the Lancelot template.

Biology is possession.

She knows she has to be very careful, here. "Lancelot, do you give permission for me to use your genetic material for the zygote I'm going to make?"

Me, not Elaine, not the Elaines, not Elaine Garlot.

"Well, yes, of course," Lancelot says, looking confused. It is a common look for him. "My lady said —"

"Okay," she hastily interjects, not wanting this to get into yet another discussion of how wonderful and amazing his lady is. Will the zygote she is creating be conditioned to be like him, in thrall to the progenitor? Or will the zygote simply be subject to everything the Elaine clones are? Which would be worse, after all?

Her heart aches. She tries not to think about that. She tries not to think about anything, much, lest it show in her voice and Elaine Garlot take notice. "Sign this."

It's the standard form for genetic rights transferral, but she's modified the wording so that the rights transfer to her, Elaine Corbenic, not the Elaine group as a whole.

She can't resist one last question: "Lancelot… do you ever wish you could… be your own person? Apart from the Guineveres?"

Lancelot is puzzled. "But who would I be, apart from my lady and her clones?"

"Who indeed," she says, sighing. "I think that's all, Lancelot. You'll be able to go back to the Guinevere lab now."

Lancelot looks very relieved.

*

E. Corbenic has run all of Lancelot's information through Astolat's algorithms, surreptitiously, when Elaine Garlot and E. Benoic aren't looking. She hasn't made the zygote yet. She keeps putting Elaine Garlot off with excuses, with tests she needs to double-check, but her progenitor is getting impatient and suspicious. She can't keep it up much longer.

Whenever she thinks of making the zygote, she thinks of Elaine Astolat — Astolat's — closed angry face, she thinks of Elaine Benoic standing close to Elaine Garlot. She thinks of her blank face in the mirror.

For Galahad's sake --

Biology is possession. She's done some research on her own, and she now knows what Astolat meant, what Astolat told her trusting that her clone-sister would understand. An engineered zygote is, legally, the descendant of those who have contributed the genetic information and who have designed the zygote, unless they have signed those rights away. Galahad will be the descendant of Lancelot — who has signed his rights to her — and of E. Corbenic, who will use her genetic information. Which is identical to E. Garlot's, of course, but the law does not care about that.

She will carefully record all the transferral of genetic information, making sure to document that it is all directly from her, Elaine Corbenic.

She will contact Astolat and Gwenhwyfar. Astolat taught her enough that she thinks she can get through Elaine Garlot's network security measures. She will leave. Perhaps she will join Astolat and Gwenhwyfar's lab, as Astolat invited her to; perhaps she will do something else entirely.

There will be battles, she knows, with E. Garlot. But she will fight for Galahad.

Galahad, her child. With the Lancelot template's superior performance, and the Elaine genetic material, coupled with Astolat's optimizing algorithms… it will be interesting to see what becomes of her Galahad, the child of a clone and of a template, yet with an optimized genome superior to those with greater legal and societal rights. She laughs, thinking of something Gwenhwyfar once said. She says aloud, "Perhaps Galahad will achieve the Holy Grail."